The John Deere GP: How Deere proved their loyalty to the farmer.

GPWT
The John Deere GP was Deere’s first tricycle front end. The wide-track version is among the most collectible of all the “poppin’ Johnnies”!

See the details on this John Deere GP.

In the mid-20s, John Deere was in desperate need of a tractor to compete with Harvester’s new do-it-all tractor – the Farmall Regular. The Farmall Regular was a highly successful row-crop tractor that was rated for about 13 horse, or enough to pull a two-bottom plow.

Initially, Deere’s answer was the Model C – a tractor that I don’t believe they were ever really happy with. It was pulled from the market and several different changes were made all within about 10 months. The resulting tractor was renamed the John Deere GP (General Purpose) and what you see here is a variant thereof…the Wide Tread.

GPWT2
The GP-WT had a 76″ wide footprint!

Deere built the GP and its variants for roughly 7 years, from 1928-1935. Honestly, the tractors weren’t super-successful. They were heavy and underpowered, and quite frankly, there were some design issues that plagued the early tractors. They did manage to sell around 36,000 of them give or take a few, but the Farmall Regular was the clear winner in this fight.

The Wide Tread model was the first row-crop design for Deere, and it was definitely the most successful of the variants. Although it took a few different design changes for them to feel like they got it right, it did finally come together. CEO Charles Wiman was openly critical of how the Company had handled the design and development of the GP tractors. He considered the GP to be one of his biggest failures as a leader.

Personally, I think he did a terrific job of leading the charge – mainly because the company learned from their mistakes, and kept working tirelessly to fix the issues and make a better machine. That’s what the farmer needed, and Deere was devoted to making the product work!

The GP by the numbers

I’ve heard/found differing numbers as far as GP production goes, but all in all, there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 36-37,000 tractors built. It gets tricky because a few tractors ended up being recalled and rebuilt/resold with different options but using the same serial number, etc.

That said, here’s a basic breakdown.

GP: 30, 535
GP-WT: 5,103
GP-P (a modified GPWT specially made for potato farmers): 203
GP-O (Orchard): 717

Additionally, there was a fairly major design change in the GP-WT’s steering system that moved the linkage from the side (like you see on the tractor in the picture) to the top of the hood like you’d find on the Model A. The last 443 GP-WTs were all built this way, and they’re HIGHLY collectible.

So yeah, like I said…tracking production numbers on the John Deere GP is a little tricky.

The GP-WT at auction

I honestly don’t have a lot of information to go on with this tractor. Here’s what I know (or what I think I know). I’m just about positive that this tractor is a 1930 or maybe a 1931 model (I don’t have a serial number for it yet, but I’ve got a phone call in to the auctioneer). It currently lives in southern Illinois, and it sells to the highest bidder next Tuesday, March 2!

As I get more information on it, I’ll update the post. For now, though, there’s not much to go on.

Deere’s leadership during the Great Depression

Ever wonder why so many farmer families have been bleeding green for literally decades? The foundation of that brand loyalty was laid during some of the toughest years in America’s modern history…the 1930s. Deere was devoted to its workers and the farmer, and they showed it in several major ways.

Loyal to their employees

During the early years of the Great Depression, Deere’s sales plummeted over 85% in less than two years (1930-1932), forcing major cuts and a huge layoff. It was a horrible time to be in business. Still, Deere & Co. maintained a tremendous loyalty to their employees. They still paid 5% interest on employee savings accounts and they still maintained the group insurance policies for laid-off workers. But it didn’t stop there…

The People’s Bank of Moline was known to be where Deere & Company kept their accounts, and many of their employees banked there as well. In 1930 or 1931 – I’m not sure which – that bank found itself on the brink of collapse due to an internal embezzlement scheme. Deere’s CEO, Charles Wiman, brought the Board of Directors together on the day the bank was supposed to close. He made a motion to cover the bank’s losses – nearly $1.3 million! He stated, “If we do not do this, the bank closes…As I view it, there are appromixately $7 million of savings deposits in this bank, largely made by the wage earners of our factories, and the effects upon them of closing the bank, and the resulting consequences to this Company, are beyond calculation.”

That very day, Deere cut a check to the bank for $1.29 million to cover the losses, and kept that bank afloat. In turn, they saved the deposits of a great deal of their employees as well. From where I’m sitting, it was a pivotal moment in the world of corporate responsibility.

(Read more about this here.)

Loyal to the American farmer

Still, Deere wasn’t done. In 1931 alone, Deere assumed $12 million in farmer loans for equipment. For some farmers, they were the only institution that would extend credit. That was a tremendous show of faith on Deere’s part towards their customers. They knew that in addition to keeping the Company afloat, they needed to also extend a hand to the American farmer.

In an unprecedented move, Deere extended the terms on ALL of its loans to farmers. For every piece of machinery that cost more than $200, Deere extended terms to a full three years. In doing so, it helped literally thousands of farmers keep their equipment; for many, that economic relief was the difference between keeping the land and losing it!

Why did Deere do all of this? Because they knew that at the end of the day, they were forming a bond with their customers. It was a relationship that was so much more than company/customer. Deere’s actions during the early years of the Great Depression expressed faith in the farmer and helped preserve the farmer’s dignity. Farmers take a lot of pride in their occupation, and Deere’s faith in them was enough to turn red blood into green.

(Read more about how the GP-WT played into Deere’s leadership in the Great Depression here.)

(This is where I go off-script for a bit…)

Nearly every time I spotlight an older Deere on any of our social channels, I’m pretty much guaranteed to get a bevy of comments that range from “that’s the best tractor ever built!” to “the overpriced plastic tractors they make today are hot garbage blah blah blah.”

Opinions get loud and pretty fiesty, and sometimes the snide comments get pretty old, honestly.

The way companies do business has changed a lot over the years, and sometimes it ruffles feathers. That’s what happens when a company grows into a business with a large global footprint. Is any company perfect? Surely not. Deere isn’t. They’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, and they’ve suffered the consequences, too.

I’m not sure that there’s a company  in agriculture today that takes more heat for the way they run their business than John Deere. That’s okay, too; we live in a world of very diverse opinions, and everybody is entitled to their own opinion. However…at the end of the day, I don’t think it’s fair to question their devotion to the farmer.

 

 

The Loudest John Deere…in the world.

John Deere 435
The 435 was one of the loudest tractors that John Deere ever made! It sells at an online auction near Philadelphia on July 16. Click the photo to see the listing and lots more photos!

Before we talk about the John Deere 435 in the photo above, let me set the stage for you.

1959 was a hectic year for John Deere. They were six years into their biggest project ever – the New Generation tractors. These tractors were radically different, and nothing (not even the green and yellow paint) was sacred. Nearly every single operating system needed redesigned, and that meant that it was an all hands on deck kind of deal.

Still, Deere needed to keep selling equipment, and farmers were still looking for improvements in the two-cylinder lineup. When Deere needed to buy itself some development time on the New Generation series, they chose to “redesign” the 430 for the 1959 model year. They reworked a few things on the tractor, but when it came to the powerplant, they couldn’t pull engineers away from the New Gen motor development to tweak the two-cylinder just as a stop gap. They needed a creative solution and they wanted a small diesel motor (the 430 didn’t have one); so, Deere called GM in Detroit and worked a deal to use their supercharged two-stroke 2-53 motor. Presto! Now they had a “new” (ish) tractor called the 435 AND one with a small diesel motor! Two birds – one stone!

The 2-53 Detroits are reliable little motors that make somewhere in the neighborhood of 33 horse on the PTO shaft. They’re also INSANELY loud, especially if they’re straight-piped. Fortunately, this one isn’t, so it might be a little more manageable. Still, if I ever meet the buyer, I’ll give them a fresh set of earplugs and a big bottle of Excedrin!

This 435 lives just north of Philly, and our friends at Alderfer Auction are handling the auction. The owner recently restored it, and it’s in great shape! The spin-out wheels don’t appear to have any wear on them, either! They should work about as slick as advertised! The 435 was among the last two cylinder Deeres ever built; and with only about 4600 of ’em out there, they’re not all that common! I’d imagine this one probably gets close to the $10K mark!

The Corner-Carving Deere

John Deere 4455 Copy
This beautiful John Deere 4455 MFWD only has 2743 original hours on it, and it sells on July 13, 2020. Click the photo to see the listing and lots more photos of this beauty!

It’s getting hard to find a low-houred John Deere 4455 like this one these days; every now and then, however, one sneaks out of the barn and heads to auction. Like this one! This beautiful tractor only has 2743 original hours on it, and it sells at an auction hosted by Wears Auctioneering in Iowa City, IA. Sells with duals, full rack of front weights, new interior, and sales and service records.

The 4455 MFWD was a hot seller, because among other improvements, this tractor could turn sharper than the competition. Deere built a push-button system for the 50-series called Caster Action that tightened the turning radius. However, on the 55-series, it engaged automatically. By tilting the kingpin on the front axle a few degrees, the front wheels could lean over while turning; therefore tightening your turning radius. In fact, the stat nerds at Deere figured that if you dragged a 6-row 30″ cultivator through a square 100-acre field, you’d turn around 139 times! With Caster Action, the John Deere 4455 could cut about 18 feet off of each loop! When you do the math, that saves about a half mile per field! It doesn’t sound like much, but if you did the math all the way through the year, it’d add up to some decent fuel savings!

(That said…many owners turned their 4455s up a little, so the fuel savings went straight out the stack. Still, it was nice idea, right?)

This particular tractor is a 3-owner with 2743 hours (verified – service records and sale history comes with the tractor). The tractor has never left the state of Iowa all of its life, and each owner has maintained it very well. A Deere technician replaced the dash at 2727.9 hours in 2014; he engraved the original hours on the underside of the new dash to document the change. Since then, the owner has only it used a few hours per year mowing set-aside land. The new meter currently reads 14.9 hours.

Bidding on this one is pretty hot right now; I’ll be surprised if this tractor doesn’t hit close to $50K when the bidding is finished!

Final hammer price: $54,150.

John Deere’s Game-Changing 4430

John Deere 4430
Matt Maring Auction Co, Inc. will auction this John Deere 4430 off on July 24, 2020. Click the photo to see the listing on Tractor Zoom!

Click here to see the auction listing for this beautiful 4430!

It seems to me that cabs from the fifties and sixties were an afterthought. They’re pretty crude, cramped, and usually drafty. Yes, it kept you out of the elements, so they were better than nothing, but still…not all that great. Surely you can hear a conversation about tractor cabs in the engineering office, right? It probably went like this. “Y’know, we should build that tractor with a cab! Hey Harv, do we have anything in back that we can throw on this thing so it’s got a cab?”

Deere changed the game when they launched the 30-series in late 1972. Their engineers designed the tractor around the SoundGard cab using seals and bushings to isolate vibrations and engine noise. This really was a big deal! Nobody had ever built a tractor like that before! Was it a gamble? Maybe…but as bigger farms emerged, so did the need for more modern equipment. Farmers were spending more hours in the field than ever. They wanted to be more comfortable.

The gamble paid off, too. John Deere’s game changing 4430 established them as not only a front runner in the horsepower game, but also as a pioneer in the “modern” era of farm tractor. They built them with a cab in mind from the start, and that decision has changed the agricultural landscape. Talk to any farmer who’s run an open station and then bought a SoundGard. Spoiler alert: They won’t give the SoundGard back.

Here’s how well that gamble paid off, in sales terms.

Deere sold a 4430 every 36 minutes of every day for 5 years!

Let that marinate for a few seconds.

This one lives at a farm in Wisconsin for the next few weeks until Matt Maring and his team send it home with the highest bidder on July 24. It’s a one-owner ’77 model quad range with 7700 hours, and it’s loaded! Duals, a front-mount fuel tank, rear wheel weights, and a super-clean interior! All things considered, I think it’s an $18-20K tractor all day long. What do you think?

2020 NFMS 4430
Don Cummings, a farmer from Seymour, IN, owns this beautiful 4430 (that’s NOT up for auction on July 24). It was a HUGE hit at John Deere’s booth at the 2020 National Farm Machinery Show!

Matt Maring Auction Co, Inc.

The Most Interesting Equipment We’ve Seen Cross The Auction Block in 2019!

“Ryan, you must see interesting equipment auctions all the time. What’s the coolest stuff you’ve ever seen on Tractor Zoom?”

I get this question all the time, and we DO see some pretty interesting equipment auctions every week. In fact, I write a fun weekly email about that; it’s called Interesting Iron, and you can sign up for it here!

Continue reading “The Most Interesting Equipment We’ve Seen Cross The Auction Block in 2019!”

What do I do with Grandpa’s old Farmall? Help!

Farmall M tractor
If you don’t know what to do with Grandpa’s old Farmall, keep reading. We can help point you in the right direction. If you’re looking to buy an old Farmall, click the photo to browse tractors at auction.

We get questions like this sent to our Facebook page and emails all the time. Typically, they come from family members who are trying to tie up loose ends on a loved one’s estate. It’s usually an old John Deere tractor that Uncle Ronnie tinkered with in the garage, or Grandpa’s old Farmall. Every now and again, however, it’s something entirely different. Two weeks ago, someone needed advice on how to get a combine removed from a property that they’d just purchased. Continue reading “What do I do with Grandpa’s old Farmall? Help!”

The 5 Biggest Tractors Available in the States Today

Lots of companies, bloggers, and other ag media outlets have done lists of the biggest tractors on the planet—so that’s what we’re gonna do too.

Wait a minute…

Why would we do a list like everybody else? We do stuff different around here and you probably already know the basics of that list anyway. Big Bud, that big Versatile eight wheel thing that hasn’t been made in 40 years, blah blah blah.  How ’bout we do something more relevant with our list?  Continue reading “The 5 Biggest Tractors Available in the States Today”